The holiday season is here! Bring on the warm fuzzy feelings, the joy, the carols, the food... and of course the stress. The lists. The bills. Ugh.
For some of us, travel is a major part of celebrating the holidays. I've lived several states away from my family for most of my adult life (going on 13 years!) so I've racked up some experience in this area. Here are my favorite tips for the most wonderful time of the year:
How To Survive Holiday Air Travel, aka 5 easy tips for not totally losing your sh*t
Tip #1: Do your research!
Do all of your homework before you go, including some extra credit.
Know your airline, departure time, departure gate, connecting times (if applicable).
Bonus points: If you have a connection, know the alternate connecting cities for your journey. That way, if a flight gets canceled or delayed beyond the point of salvage, you are prepared and ready with options. For even more extra credit, look at those airport maps in the travel magazine so you can easily identify your next gate. If you have to run for it, you'll be prepared.
Don't rely on the overworked and stressed gate agent to do your job for you... as a responsible traveler, you should know your routes and your backup routes. This will put you WAY ahead of the competition (aka other travelers) should something disrupt your trip.
Tip #2: Pack Light
The less stuff you have, the more nimble you are.
Try traveling with a carry on only... you won't believe how freeing it is! Ship anything you need to your destination beforehand and enjoy the most blissful trip ever. Laugh at all of those jokers who are dragging coffin-like suitcases through crowds of people. If the worst-case scenario occurs and you are delayed/rerouted/canceled, you won't have the added stress of your missing bag.
If you absolutely must check a bag for family or medical reasons, get to the airport early! The sooner that bag is checked, the sooner it can make its way down the Conveyor Belt of Love to your plane. If you DO check a bag, make sure it is easily identifiable at the carousel! Use colorful ribbon, a large luggage tag or some other method of finding your bag (and keep others from finding it for you!)
Tip #3: Stay Connected
Use those travel apps! (alternate subtitle: "I believe the children are the future...")
Download your airlines app and login before you go. When a delay or change occurs, the app push notification is often quicker than the gate announcement!
There are also dozens of other useful travel apps to help you stay connected on the go.
Tip #4: Allow Extra Time
Holiday Rush + Winter Weather = Unfortunate Chaos
Unfortunately for us, the December holidays coincide with the worst weather of the year. Delays can and will happen. If you are researched, prepared AND have allowed extra time, you will be a step ahead of most people. As my dad says, it's always better to be a few minutes early than a few minutes late. That is especially true during this time of year.
Did you know that you can check TSA security wait times before you go? Now you do!
Tip #5: Breathe and Be Kind
A Little Bit of Smile Goes aLong Way
Due to the state of air travel today, the complete experience is almost entirely out of our control. I have found that a little bit of kindness goes a long way in a stressful situation. That gate agent is probably working the end of a very long shift with some very angry people. He or she can't control anything any more than we can... it's best to just relax and know that we will all get through it!
When travel gets stressful, I always think of this Louis CK Video
(Warning, adult language! Hilarious adult language!)
Be a bit nicer than normal, even if you have steam pouring from your ears. Consider bringing a small gift, like a $5 box of candy or something similar from the gift shop. You will be appreciated and might even benefit from a free drink or an update. Try it and see if it works! At minimum, that unexpected act of kindness is good for your soul. It's the holidays, after all.
Hi, I'm Ashley
Ashley (@ashleysmorris) is a freelance writer, virtual assistant and owner of Alpaca Your Bags Travel.
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